Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger

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Gabriel: Bears Should Have Quality TE Options In Draft

In Matt Nagy's ideal world, tight ends would play a bigger role than in 2018.

Greg Gabriel
April 09, 2019 - 2:04 pm

(670 The Score) Running back is the position that has gathered the most pre-draft attention from the Bears, but it isn't the only need left to fill for Chicago.

As we know, the Bears offense closely resembles those of both the the Eagles and the Chiefs, as Chicago coach Matt Nagy is a disciple of Andy Reid. In both of those offenses, the tight ends were far more important than they were for the Bears in 2018. While Zach Ertz had 116 receptions in Philadelphia and Travis Kelce had 103 catches in Kansas City, Trey Burton had 54 receptions to lead Chicago's tight end group. 

Part of the limited tight end production was that the Bears were in their first season under Nagy's direction and still learning his offensive system. Another reason is the Bears just may not have enough talent at the position.

The Bears selected Adam Shaheen out of Division-II Ashland College in the second round in 2017. While he has the physical traits to excel, he wasn't ready for the NFL game after coming from a lower level of collegiate competition. After recording just 12 catches in 13 games in 2017, Shaheen was injured for most of 2018, appearing in only six games.

That brings us back to the NFL Draft, which starts April 25. It’s my feeling that after running back, tight end is the Bears' most important need. It appears this year is a good one to have that need, as the tight end class has some quality depth. The Bears don't own a pick until the third round at No. 87 overall, but tight end options should be available there and in the fourth round.

Here are some of the top candidates for the Bears to look at in that range:

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M

Sternberger was an early entry into the draft after attending three schools in four years. He started off at Kansas, then transferred to a junior college before ending up at Texas A&M this past year. Sternberger put up some big numbers in 2018 with 48 receptions for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's more of a move tight end, but his blocking got better as the season went on. He could go as high as the third round and as low as the fourth.

Kaden Smith, Stanford

Before the NFL Combine, I felt Smith had a chance of going in a premium round. That thought ended when he ran a slow 4.9-second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis and then didn’t try and run again at Stanford' pro day last week.

Smith played in a pro-style scheme and is an excellent blocker. As a receiver, he had 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. He plays much faster on tapes than he times on the field, and his combine workout would attest to that. With that slow time, he could be available in the fourth round for the Bears.

Dax Raymond, Utah State

Raymond is a bit older than the other prospects at the position because he spent two full years on a Mormon mission. He will be 24 when he reports to training camp this summer. Raymond has size (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) and speed (4.72) and can play in tight as a Y or flexed out. He's a good route runner and strong blocker with soft hands. I feel that he fits the Bears offense well and would be a solid addition in the middle rounds.

Foster Moreau, LSU

Moreau was used mainly as a blocker at LSU and because of that, his receiving production suffered. He caught a combined 46 passes for 550 yards in the past two seasons. When he got to the combine, he showed that he may have been misused in college. He ran a fast 4.66, had a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-1 standing long jump, making him one of the more athletic tight ends in the draft. He was a tough player to evaluate on tape because of the way he was used, but he has received a lot of attention from scouts and coaches this spring. He may get selected as high as the third round.

Isaac Nauta, Georgia

Nauta is similar to Smith in that he looks athletic on tape but didn’t test that way at at the combine or his pro day. The fastest that Nauta ran was a 4.82 at Georgia, which is hardly what teams are looking for now at the position. Still, he was productive with 30 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns last season. He needs to get bigger and stronger to hold up at the NFL level as a blocker, but as a receiver, he has good hands and does a good job getting open against man coverage.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.